Radicchio Salad with Apple

Radicchio Salad

This is my current favourite salad and it is a fantastic accompaniment to barbecued meat and crispy roast potatoes. It is also as pretty as a picture!

Radicchio is a red leaf lettuce and is immensely popular with Italians, chargrilled and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  Sometimes called Italian chicory, it can be hard to find in your local grocer or supermarket, and because of its bitterness, people may find it challenging on its own with just a simple dressing.

It is the bitterness, however, that makes this salad what it is – a perfect balance of flavours – sweet (from honey, currants), tangy (from aople, vinegars), salty (from salt),  bitter (from radicchio) and unami/savoury (from parmesan, nuts).

Dry roast the nuts before you start and have everything ready to go so that you can whip up the salad just before you need to serve it.  To dry roast, add the walnuts in a dry fry pan and roast for a couple of minutes, remove and then pop in the pine nuts until light brown – being careful not to burn.

Oh – and if pomegranates are in season,  you won’t go wrong if you scatter over some of its juicy red seeds for added zing.

Raddichio salad with pomegranate

INGREDIENTS
½ head of radicchio, cut into 1-1.5 cm ribbons
1 large handful of baby rocket
1 large handful of mixed lettuce (mesclun)
¼ cup walnuts, dry roasted roughly chopped
¼ cup pinenuts, dry roasted
¼ currants
1 small green apple, cut into matchsticks
1 tblspn roughly chopped dill
Parmesan, shaved, to serve
Balsamic vinegar, to serve

Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tblpsn red wine vinegar
a generous pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of honey, about half tsp

METHOD

1.  Mix the lettuce, apples, currants and nuts with the dressing and stir through – taste for seasoning.
2. Drizzle over some balsamic vinegar (or balsamic glaze).
3. Using potato peeler, shave some parmesan generously over the top of the salad and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.

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Authentic Sangria

Sangria 4

My visit to Barcelona last year reacquainted me with good Sangria and better still, whilst I was there I learnt how to make it. Sangria, for the uninitiated, is a wine punch, that has been traditionally drunk in Spain and Portugual for hundreds of years.

This recipe is proper, authentic Sangria and one that a Spaniard would be happy to drink.

Now, if you ordering a jug of Sangria at a Spanish restaurant outside of Spain, (or in a touristy restaurant in Spain for that matter) it can be a bit hit and miss. I’m always usually disappointed because it very rarely tastes that amazing – because they don’t use the magic ingredient … Licor 43.  Instead, they will serve up some wine and soda perhaps with a splash of brandy and a bit of chopped fruit thrown in.

Licor 43 is a Spanish liqueur which is made of fruit, herbs, spices and vanilla. It is quite nice on its own with lots of ice, a slice of lemon and a splash of soda or lemonade. It mixes well and can be used in cocktails.  In Australia, Licor 43 used to be very hard to find, but now it is widely stocked and I’ve seen it many Duty Free shops in airports around the world (including Sydney).

Sangria made properly is a delightful, refreshing and flavoursome fruit punch – best served with loads of ice.  The wine itself doesn’t need to be expensive but it should be one that you would happily drink on its own and be full bodied – ideally from Spain, if we are being authentic!

I learnt this recipe, sitting in one of the best Tapas bars in Barcelona, watching the barman making glass, after glass, after glass for the many locals imbibing their most popular national beverage.

The beauty of this recipe is that this is a quantity for one glass, so you can whip up any time you might feel a refreshing cocktail coming on! Obviously you can easily multiply the quantity to make a jug.

The bar had premixed the fruit into the wine. Feel free to marinate the fruit in the wine for an hour or two if you are making a jug, but sometimes there is no time to macerate the fruit so you can easily omit this step. Thanks to Licor 43, it will still be fabulous.

INGREDIENTS

15ml Licor 43
15ml Cointreau
100ml red wine
100ml lemon flavoured soda like Fanta or Lift (not Sprite or 7Up)
1 slice of orange, chopped into 8 pieces
1 tblspn chopped apple, skin on

METHOD

1. Half fill a large wine glass with ice.
2. Pour of the alcohol and top with lemon soda and fruit. Stir.

Serves 1

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Roasted Cauliflower Salad

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This dish is on high rotation in our house as it ticks a number of boxes. I’ve been trying to cook two meat-free dinners per week and even though this is vegetarian, it is still substantial – which means we aren’t starving within an hour of eating it. It is also high in fiber and is a cinch to cook when I get home from work.  It is great as a side dish with fish or a BBQ.

Originally adapted from a Karen Martini recipe, it is a very forgiving recipe and therefore exact quantities aren’t really necessary – it will still work and taste great. You can substitute a number of ingredients depending what you have in your pantry/fridge, so I’ve written it that way.  That said, it is a cauliflower salad … so the only mandatory ingredient is therefore, the cauliflower!

INGREDIENTS
1 whole head of cauliflower
1 tsp cumin seeds
sea salt
drizzle of olive oil

1 handful nuts …
– eg almonds, pistachio, walnuts, pepitas or sunflower

½ cup grain …
    – eg quinoa (GF),  buckwheat (GF), freekah (low gluten), barley or farro

½ cup finely chopped green shallots …
or scallion, red onion

½ cup chopped herbs …
eg parsley, basil, mint, coriander, dill or a combination

½ cup dried fruit …
– eg currants, cranberries, cherries or fresh pomegranate seeds

½ cup diced feta …
     – or crumbled goat cheese

Dressing
juice ½ lemon
drizzle extra virgin olive oil
drizzle pomegranate molasses (optional)
a scattering of pepitas

METHOD

1.  Cut the cauliflower in slices about 1cm thick and then remove most of the thick stalk from the slices. Drizzle over some olive oil, season with salt and sprinkle over the cumin seeds.  Spread the cauliflower out on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  I prefer to spead over two trays as it cooks quicker and browns better.  Cook at 180C for around 30-40 mins until the cauliflower is nicely browned.

2. Meanwhile, cook the grain you are using as per the packet instructions.

3. Once the cauli is done, remove it from the oven, throw the nuts on the tray and cook until slightly roasted – watch them carefully, takes about 3-5 mins.  Allow both the nuts and cauliflower to cool slightly for a few minutes.

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4. In a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients.  Throw in the nuts and cauliflower, including all the little caramelised bits.   Squeeze over the lemon juice, drizzle the pomegranate molasses, some olive oil and mix through. Season with sea salt to taste.

5.  Serve in a bowl or platter and scatter the feta (or goat cheese) and pepita over the top.

Serves 2-3 as a meal,  or 4 as a side dish.

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Spaghetti Vongole

Spaghetti VongoleThis is an Italian classic and like many classic recipes, it relies on a simple combination that allows each of the ingredients to shine. Here, the vongole is combined with the holy trinity of olive oil, parsley and garlic.

Vongole is the Italian word for clam but there are various species of similar shelled molluscs that include cockles, periwinkles and pipis.

Clams feature in dishes throughout the world, famously in America where they come in a the form of clam chowder or clam bakes (yes, there really is such a thing, it is not just the title of an Elvis movie) and by the Chinese who served them with XO sauce. In Spain, they are mad for tinned razor clams, which are an elongated variety and you will find fresh clams (Almejas) peeking out of Paella, or served any number of ways including stewed with chorizo and tomato.

Locally, Pipis have been eaten throughout the millenia by the indigenous Australians as evidenced by the remains found in shell middens (which are places where shell debris was collected over time).  Bennalong Point, the site of the Sydney Opera House, was in fact originally used as a shell midden.

One of the fun things to do at the beach is to find your own clams, by digging and twisting your feet into the sand at the shoreline when the water rushes back out to sea – or do what I did … and buy them already cleaned of sandy grit and vacuumed packed from the supermarket!!!

Vongole packet

Make sure you use dried pasta, not fresh as fresh is too delicate for this recipe. It goes without saying if you are following a gluten-free diet to use gluten-free pasta, I used San Remo.  Like with mussels, discard any vongole that doesn’t open.

Please note: that this recipe is NOT paleo, low carb or low fat!

INGREDIENTS

250g dried (not fresh) spaghetti or linguine
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½-1 long red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds if you can’t handle the heat)
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1kg Vongole, vacuumed packed
2 tblspn extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio
1/3 cup vongole juice, reserved from the vacuum pack
1/3 cup reserved pasta cooking water
sea salt
a knob of butter (20g) or another slosh of olive oil
chopped parsley to serve

METHOD

1. Firstly, put the water on for the pasta in a large pot. Meanwhile, as the water is heating, prep all the ingredients – including opening the seal of the vongole pack and draining out the juice.  Keep the vongole inside the pack until ready to put then in the pan.

2. Once the water is boiling, season the water well with table salt and once it returns to the boil, place the pasta in.

3. Once the pasta is in, heat olive oil into a large wide frypan with high sides or a casserole style saucepan.  Add the garlic, chilli and parsley and stir until aromatic – about 30 secs and then add the wine.  Let it all bubble away for one minute to burn off the alcohol in the wine, then add the reserved vongole juice and cook for another minute.

vongole cooking

4. Tip the vongole into the pan. Swirl the pan gently so as distribute the garlic sauce over and around the vongole. As they open, lightly sprinkle over some sea salt flakes and break up the knob of butter and scatter throughout the pan. Cover with lid and cook for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could use olive oil instead of butter, but I prefer the addition of butter.

5. Once pasta is just cooked to al-dente, strain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water to add to the vongole.  Tip the drained pasta over the vongole, add reserved pasta water and shake the pan (or stir) so that everything meshes together and the sauce emulsifies. Cook for another minute with lid on. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

6. Serve immediately and sprinkle with a little extra parsley.

Serves 2.  

Please note, I’ve been very generous with the sauce and the quantity of vongole, so if you would like to make this to serve 4, you can increase the pasta to 350g-500g, but keep the rest of the ingredients the same. You may need to add a little extra pasta cooking liquid or olive oil if it seems too dry.

 

 

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Mexican Salad

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It can be said that a recipe creates a synergy where the sum is much greater than the parts! Crispy chorizo, the sweet corn, the creamy avocado, the juicy tomato, the freshness from the coriander, the softness of the beans, the crunch from the onion and the spiciness from the chilli – I think the combination of ingredients in this dish creates a wonderful alchemy.

It is a perfect dish for a light dinner or substantial lunch.  A serving of corn chips or warmed tortilla makes an excellent accompaniment.

INGREDIENTS

2 corn cobs
2 gluten-free chorizo sausages, thinly sliced
1 avocado, chopped into chunky pieces
200g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ small red onion, sliced
400g can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 tsp finely chopped pickled jalepeno chillis
1 tblspn finely chopped coriander leaves
2 tblspn olive oil
2-3 tsp sherry vinegar
sour cream (to serve)

METHOD

1. Cook the corn for about 8-10mins until tender.  Meanwhile, fry the chorizo in a small pan until cooked and the edges are crispy and caramelised.

2. Cut the cooked corn kernels off from the cob and place into a bowl, along with the beans, onion, avocado and tomato and a sprinkle of sea salt flakes.

3. Put the olive oil and vinegar into a small jar and shake to mix and stir through the salad.

4. Add the cooked chorizo and coriander to the bowl. Toss through and taste for seasoning.

5. Serve with sour cream and corn chips (or tortillas) on the side.

Serves 2-3 people

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Santorini Fava

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Fava is a much loved Greek dip, made from yellow split peas (lentils) but is not to be confused with dried broad beans, which is known as fava in other parts of the world. Fava is usually served with other dishes as part of a meal but can also be served as mezethes, which are small plates designed to have with drinks like ouzo or raki – in a similar fashion to Spanish tapas.

‘Protected designation of origin’ status has been provided to the Greek fava grown on the spectacular island of Santorini.  It has been grown there for over 3,500 years in the volcanic soil and has properties that make it a totally unique product with an distinctive flavour and texture.

For a product to have PDO status awarded, it must be have unique qualities and be traditionally and totally produced within the specific region.  Some other examples of Greek PDO products include Kalamata olives and mastic from Chios.

Interestingly, researching this, I discovered that feta cheese also has PDO status, and that it must be made of a combination of sheep and goats milk, and be made in Greece to be called feta. Hello Denmark, Australia and Bulgaria, you might like to take note. Clearly no-one is policing this one!  There currently isn’t a PDO on Greek yogurt – I wish there was, it should be illegal to call that awful stuff made elsewhere “Greek yogurt”.

Santorini fava differs from normal yellow split peas in the following ways:

  • Firstly doesn’t need to be soaked overnight.
  • Secondly cooks quicker (around 30mins vs 60mins).
  • Thirdly upon cooking, breaks down completely, so doesn’t need to be blended.
  • Lastly, cost is much more expensive than normal fava (6 Euro vs 1.50 Euro) for 250g.

If the Santorini fava you buy doesn’t comply with these points, then I’m afraid it isn’t Santorini fava.  It should also have a PDO stamp on the packaging.

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If you aren’t in Greece, you will probably have zero chance of getting your hands on Santorini Fava, so you can easily make this with normal yellow split peas. Either way, it will taste great, as normal split peas is what most Greeks use anyway. Just make sure you soak overnight and you will need to remove the onion and blend it.

The Santorini fava recipe below is straight off the packet and can be found online here.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup fava (yellow split peas)
4 cups water
1 peeled onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Topping

1 shallot, finely diced
1 tblspn extra virgin olive oil
1 tlbspn red wine vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme

METHOD

If using normal split peas, wash and soak overnight in cold water.

1. Wash and rinse the fava, place in a saucepan with cold water. Drop in the peeled whole onion, add salt and pepper.

2. Bring the boil and cook for around 30 mins (for Santorini fava) or 45-60mins (for normal yellow split peas).  During cooking continually skim off the white foam with a spoon and remove.

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3. While the fava is cooking make the topping and set aside for the flavours to blend.

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4. Once the Santorini fava is cooked it will break down become creamy and smooth.  The normal fava will look soften and start to break down but still be lumpy and look like porridge.  You may need to add more water during cooking for the normal kind of fava.

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5. When cooked remove the onion and allow the fava to cool slightly.  The normal fava will need to be blended with a stick blender so that it is smooth.  The Santorini fava will be perfect as is.

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6. Serve on a plate and spoon the topping over just before serving.

Best served slightly warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4 as a side dish, or 6 or more as a dip.

 

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Living the dream …

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KB Greece 2009 216

Soul Kitchen Blog is currently having an extended holiday in the Greek islands – living a dream in an idyllic fishing village and enjoying every minute of Greek summer blue skies and turquoise water. Picture postcard perfect, it is not just spectacular scenery that makes any trip to Greece so special – it is also the experience of the generous Greek hospitality, which includes (of course) the incredible food.

What has stuck me most about the fantastic food we are eating here, is how fresh it is and how simple the cooking is. With only a light seasoning, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice – the produce shines.

I contemplate how a Greek salad made by me in Greece, tastes so much better than a Greek salad made by me in Sydney.  Even though my method and ingredients are the same, the difference is significant and can only come down to one thing – the quality and freshness of the produce.

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It doesn’t matter how much I pay for tomatoes (for example) in Sydney, I reckon they just taste average.  Here they are fleshy and red, bursting with full tomato flavour.

Is it the soil? is it the climate? is because it is seasonal produce ripened on the plant?  I’d hazard a guess and say it is most likely a combination of the three, but if you have ever grown stuff in your own backyard you will know that enabling something to fully ripen on the plant before picking definitely has flavour benefits.

Additionally, we probably don’t need to be nutritionists to work out something that is grown and picked just before eating is going to have a better nutritional value than something grown hundreds of kilometres away, picked and transported before finally arriving to wholesalers, then our shops and eventually our plate.

In Greece – outside of the big cities, you grow what you can and you swap produce with your family or neighbour, or buy from local producers, eating only fruit and vegetables that are in season.

In Kos (where I am writing this from) we have been buying our fruit and vegies from roadside stalls, but at a pinch we have bought from the main supermarket that supplies the village but they also buy produce from local farmers where they can.

Every time we visit any of my partner’s family here, we come home with a bag of something wonderful.  It may be the sweetest tasting organic melons (rock, honeydew or watermelon), vine ripened juicy red tomatoes, incredibly jammy figs picked straight from the tree or gorgeous free range eggs.  We were especially lucky to be given homemade goat cheese made by partner’s Aunty, wow.

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Even more impressively … I’ve asked many people here in Kos what brand of olive oil they buy and they laugh.  They don’t buy olive oil, they get their oil from the harvest of the family olive grove! Every year there is a new batch. I don’t need to tell you how amazing the olive oil is here, you can probably guess …

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